Things to Do in the Great Lakes Bay Region: The Ultimate Pure Michigan Guide

From savoring the Michigan craft beer scene at America's oldest microbrewery to sailing under the stars on Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay or boating through National Wildlife Refuge alongside an expert local guide, Pure Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region is home to experiences that simply can't be had elsewhere!

balcony at Dow Gardens Canopy Walk during fall
Dow Gardens Canopy Walk | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

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While we could never mention all the top things to do on a Michigan vacation here in Bay CityBirch RunChesaningFrankenmuthMidland and Saginaw, read on to reveal our insider trip ideas for your Great Lakes Bay getaway!

1. Embark on Waterfront Excursions

Set sail aboard BaySail's Appledore Tall Ships for daytime sailing adventures on Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay (or "Celestial Excursions" under starry night skies).
Cruise along Frankenmuth's Cass River aboard the Bavarian Belle Riverboat or add a wine & chocolate tasting to your scenic boat tour with Frankenmuth FunShips.
Charter a guided expedition on Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay to enjoy world-class walleye fishing with any of our Saginaw Bay fishing charters.
Join Bay City Boat Lines for a Dinner & Entertainment Cruise or Free Narrated History Tour on the Saginaw River.
Set out on a self-guided kayaking trip when you rent from Ike's Mobile Kayak Rentals in Midland, Cattail Kayak Rental in Pinconning, or Frankenmuth Kayak Adventures.

2. Explore the Outdoors 

 Hike the trails, take the Wildlife Drive, or boat through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge with Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips to experience almost 10,000 acres of pristine wilderness and its inhabitants. 
Take in 110 acres of epic, natural beauty inside Dow Gardens, then follow with a stroll four stories above the forest floor once the nation's longest canopy walk opens inside Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens in October 2018.
Ride underneath the luminescent Third Street Star Bridge in Downtown Bay City on a rented tandem from Jack's Bicycle Shop or aboard the Sunrise Pedal Trolley (where up to 16 passengers enjoy pints while pedaling on a tour of Bay City). 
Climb on with PedAle Trolley for a scenic Frankenmuth city tour or pub crawl on their 16-person, pedal-powered trolley, or cozy up for a horse-drawn carriage ride with Frankenmuth Carriage or Fantasy Carriage.
Explore 1,200 acres of outdoor oasis and nearly 19 miles of trails at Midland's Chippewa Nature Center, or zipline and climb at Frankenmuth Aerial Park.
Bike, hike, inline skate, or ski to discover pocket parks and fishing holes along the multi-leg Great Lakes Bay Regional Trail that spans nearly 100 miles, and enjoy endless birding hotspots along the way.
Walk Midland's three-legged pedestrian bridge, The Tridge, and enjoy a birds-eye view at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers (then, frequent the Midland Area Farmers Market found at its base).

3. Book a Family Trip

 Make a splash at the 50,000 square-foot mecca that is Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark - named one of 30 top indoor waterparks in the world - and enjoy the Bavarian Inn Lodge's two waterslides, four indoor pools, indoor 18-hole mini-golf and Family Fun Center - the largest inside any Midwest hotel!
Go wild together at Birch Run's 56-acre Wilderness Trails Zoo or ride the miniature train and hand-carved carousel while making memories at the Saginaw Children's Zoo at Celebration Square. 
Explore hands-on learning and fun at the Mid-Michigan Children's Museum with galleries like "Water, Water Everywhere" and "Insides Out."
Catch high-octane OHL Hockey when the Saginaw Spirit face off at the Dow Event Center, or enjoy a perfect summer day behind home plate when Great Lakes Loons Minor League Baseball season heats up at Dow Diamond in Midland.

4. Discover Curated Culture 

Tour the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio in Midland and explore an oasis of mid-century modern architecture, named one of the 25 Best Historic Homes in America.
Experience the historically renovated 1927 Temple Theatre in Saginaw, or see a show at the State Theatre of Bay City, the sister theatre to Detroit's Fox Theatre and a favorite for lovers of Art Deco design.
Featuring a collection of more than 200 works, discover Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum and 20 sculptures in the exquisite Sculpture Garden.
Take part in a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony at the Japanese Cultural Center & Tea House and peruse what's revered as one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens in all of North America.
Enjoy ever-changing art, science, and history exhibits or see live dance, music, and theatre performances, all inside Midland Center for the Arts.
Peruse the Saginaw Art Museum with its Italianate gardens, two award-winning modern wings, and a collection of art spanning 4,500 years.
Catch a performance at the Dow Event Center or its neighboring outdoor festival and concert venue, Huntington Event Park.

5. Shop ‘til you Drop

Find unprecedented bargains at 145 designer and name brand outlet stores at Birch Run Premium Outlets.
Experience the "World's Largest Christmas Store" with more than 50,000 trims (and personalized souvenirs) at Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth.
Explore 400+ booths inside Bay City Antiques Center/Downtown Antiques Market, Michigan's largest antique center, fittingly located inside an historic downtown building.
Stroll the European-themed outdoor shopping mall at Frankenmuth River Place Shops and frequent each of 40+ unique stores found within.
Shop City Market in Bay City or the Frankenmuth Farmers Market for indoor, year-round selections of artisan goods, and stay tuned for the 2018 opening of the year-round SVRC Marketplace in Saginaw.

6. Indulge in Suds and Sips

Relax on an enclosed patio with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Cass River at the oldest microbrewery in America, Frankenmuth Brewery.
Sample inventive craft beers that represent regional history at Midland Brewing Company and Tri-City Brewing Company, or try Saginaw's new Oracle Brewing Company, where artisan touches are infused all the way from grain to glass.
Experience Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar, patterned after a 1920s-style speakeasy and known for its hand-crafted martinis and extensive wine selection, or slip around the corner to Bourbon + Co. where you'll sample from over 70 bourbons.
Try wine on tap (served at the perfect temperature) at Prost! Wine Bar & Charcuterie, or make your way to the Frankenmuth tasting room of Michigan's oldest winery, St. Julian Winery.
Sip hand-crafted spirits at Grand Traverse Distillery's Tasting Room or inside Saginaw's new craft distillery, Old Town Distillery.
Spend an evening in an historic tavern and choose from over 100 beers on tap at Woody's Draught House in Saginaw or slip into Whichcraft Taproom in Midland for 80 varieties (40 on tap) of only made-in-Michigan beer, wine, cider, and mead.
Try an approachable wine tasting inside Downtown Midland's boutique winery, Grape Beginnings Winery, or sip vino from an overstuffed leather chair near a roaring fire inside Midland's Whine.
While we just offered up some of the top things to do in Michigan's Great Lakes Bay, truth is you could spend a lifetime sampling our six unique cities and the eclectic neighborhoods within and still not experience it all - but you'll have a great time trying while you're here!

About the Author: Jen is a writer and small business owner in Saginaw. You can find Jen reading, always, camping with her family, or at: